‘They were rioters incited by lies’: Kinzinger shoots down 6 January conspiracy theory promoted by Cruz

A conspiracy theory positing that an alleged agent provocateur was behind the 6 January insurrection was debunked by Illinois Representative Adam Kinzinger after Senator Ted Cruz questioned Justice Department officials about it during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Mr Cruz repeatedly pressed Federal Bureau of Investigation National Security Branch official Jill Sanborn about a man called Ray Epps, who was alleged to be a government agent responsible for provoking rioters into storming the Capitol. The allegations came from a conspiracy website run by a former Trump aide who was fired for attending a white nationalist conference.

Prominent Republicans have seized on the unfounded theory – which alleges that Mr Epps is a government asset of some sort because he was added to, and later removed from, the FBI’s “most wanted” list and has not been charged with any crime – in an effort to promote their equally false claim that the federal government, not former President Donald Trump or his supporters, bears ultimate responsibility for the worst attack on the Capitol since 1814.

In a series of tweets written on Tuesday evening, Mr Kinzinger said the information he was relaying would break the hearts of people such as Tucker Carlson, Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz, and other Republicans who “have been ‘just asking questions’” about Mr Epps.

“He didn’t enter the Capitol on 6 January, and was removed from the most wanted list because apparently he broke no laws,” Mr Kinzinger wrote.

The Illinois congressman also said he was “pretty sure the FBI wouldn’t be dumb enough to put their own agent on a wanted list”.

“Ray Epps has cooperated with the January 6 committee and we thank him,” he added.

Mr Kinzinger also noted that “the narrative” offered by Mr Trump’s supporters in regards to the events of 6 January has shifted from false claims that the insurrection was carried out by “antifa” to “patriots who love their country, maybe crisis actors” to more recent claims that it was a “false flag” perpetrated by “operatives, or now FBI agents”.

“Take your pick. Truth is they were rioters incited by lies. And Ray is no fed. Just another misled man,” he wrote. “While it may break hearts, it’s true. So many are misled by so few. Just look up.”

A spokesperson for the January 6 select committee said Mr Epps had been interviewed by the committee and had told them that he “was not employed by, working with, or acting at the direction of any law enforcement agency on January 5 or or at any other time, and that he has never been an informant for the FBI or any other law enforcement agency”.

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